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Downstate clerks get OK to defend Illinois’ ban on gay marriage

Updated: July 3, 2012 7:50PM

Two downstate county clerks were given the OK Tuesday to defend the state’s gay marriage ban against a lawsuit filed in Cook County by 25 gay and lesbian couples.

Effingham County Clerk Kerry Hirtzel and Tazewell County Clerk Christie Webb were allowed to intervene in the lawsuit after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Attorney General Lisa Madigan refused to defend it, saying the state’s 16-year-old ban on gay marriage violates the Illinois constitution.

Neither the plaintiffs nor the prosecutors objected to Hirtzel and Webb’s request. The two clerks are being represented by the Thomas More Society, a law firm that opposes gay marriage.

Peter Breen, executive director of the firm, said he has filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed and that arguments could be presented to a judge in September.

The American Civil Liberties Union and New York-based Lambda Legal originally filed separate lawsuits against Cook County Clerk David Orr, a supporter of gay marriage whose office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Chicago and the rest of the county. The lawsuits have been consolidated.

The action was taken on behalf of the 25 couples, some of them from outside Cook County, all who had applied for marriage licenses in Cook County and been denied.

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